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Bengals Mail 2: Thoughts on center plans?

8/22/2014

CINCINNATI -- Once again, another game-day has arrived for the Cincinnati Bengals.

At 8 p.m. ET, they will take on the Arizona Cardinals in their third preseason game.

To help you get ready for the game, here's a little pregame reading. For the second straight day, we open up the mailbag and answer your questions. After discussing linebacker Vontaze Burfict's contract extension situation Saturday, we're spending today breaking down other items, beginning with the Bengals' plans at center:

@ColeyHarvey: That's an interesting and really good question, Wanderer. I'm going to say, "Yes." Rookie Russell Bodine would indeed have entered training camp as the Bengals' starting center, even if Mike Pollak and Clint Boling -- especially Pollak -- had been completely healthy when camp began. I'd venture to say that even if both veterans were healthy during organized team activities and minicamp that Bodine would have begun the fall as the team's starter at center. Why? Because the coaching staff is enamored by the young, sturdy and strong lineman. They like his power and strength and believe he will grow into the system quickly. They've believed that since the draft process, and continue to hold him in high regard. All of that said, had Pollak been fully healthy this spring and summer, there might actually be a little bit more of a position battle than we're seeing. It certainly appears Bodine will win the starting job, even though Pollak has taken some backup reps at the position. As for Boling, healthy or not, he'd have been at left guard. If he weren't healthy and Pollak was, Pollak would have started at left guard while probably taking a few backup center reps just to keep fresh there.



@ColeyHarvey: Iloka's been fine, NotoriousGIB. He has been one of the more impressive defenders this preseason, even if he hasn't quite gotten the attention you'd expect. He began camp talking about how the Bengals wanted to be "smart bullies" on defense, and that's precisely the way he's practiced and played in games to this point. At times he's been an enforcer, giving receivers hard forearm checks in games at the end of routes, or knocking down young wideouts at practice. Iloka always has been a tough safety, but it seems as if he's become even more measured in that regard this preseason. The one area he still needs work on, though, is creating turnovers.



@ColeyHarvey: On his very first play last Saturday against the Jets, cornerback Darqueze Dennard left the game with a hip injury. He said he ran onto the field to block on a punt return unit, did his job and then started jogging off the field when he felt some discomfort. He was shut down immediately. There just was no reason for the Bengals to rush their first-round rookie back in the game at that point. If this were a regular-season game, there's a chance Dennard would play. Since this is a preseason game and he hasn't practiced all week -- he was going through some conditioning and rehab work Friday -- there's a good chance he might not. The only reason you might actually see him on the field is if the Bengals believe playing him will give them another good look at him, as he barely played in Week 2. He also might be forced into action if Dre Kirkpatrick is still out sick after succumbing late in the week to a stomach virus that has hit the team.



@ColeyHarvey: Av, Isaiah Lewis appears to be one of those rookies who has become a casualty of playing at a deep position, and not really doing too much that will draw significant attention. That's been my read on him since training camp, at least, when practices were completely open to the media. Things might have changed for Lewis in the last week, though. He might have turned more heads among coaches now that practices have been closed. The thing is, the undrafted rookie free agent is playing behind the likes of Reggie Nelson, Iloka, Danieal Manning, Shawn Williams and Taylor Mays. He's shorter than nearly all of them, too. While height doesn't matter at safety as much as it might at corner, the Bengals still like to use their safeties a lot like corners in certain man-press situations. That's a big reason why Mays probably will stick -- he can cover tight ends. Lewis' coverage skills were lauded when he came in, but he has to do a little more to prove the Bengals need them.



@ColeyHarvey: I believe you're asking about the contract negotiation status involving Gresham? For now, they're inactive. The Bengals are focusing the bulk of their attention right now on getting everything squared away with Vontaze Burfict. Then they'll probably start brainstorming with A.J. Green's representatives about how they might be able to start locking him up long term. I wouldn't say Gresham is completely off their radar, but it doesn't appear as if anything will move with the tight end anytime soon. His rookie contract expires after this season. I wouldn't be surprised if they want to see him play a few games this year before determining whether they want him back. Second-year tight end Tyler Eifert has come on well as another option at the position.